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It seems to me that the only people wearing Covid masks outdoors these days are sketchy characters who just want to hide their faces. I'm thinking of the young guys who zip along the pavements on children's bikes. The fact that they're riding on the pavement suggests that they are not the most socially responsible members of the community. More likely, they are simply using Covid as an excuse to wear a mask. I wonder if they wear their masks when they steal the tiny bikes they favour from small children.

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I'm toying with awarding  a Worst Book of the Year to compliment the annual Book of the Year announced every January. A sort of name and shame. There are a surprising number of really really bad books being published. I say  "surprising" because it's not easy to get published. My concern is that the Worst Book would be dominated by American academics. I foolishly thought American books would be give a fresh perspective from the histories written by the English Officer Class. Instead they usually turn out to be ill informed, muddle-headed, sloppily researched and nationalistic in the extreme. Though, that's not say that there aren't some pretty dire books from British and Canadian writers, but they are usually a better bet for a good read than their US cousins. But then again:- Any Fool Can Criticise; and They Frequently Do. 

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I heard part of a radio documentary from the Irish state broadcaster RTE recently. Most of its documentary output is little better than an hour along the lines of "Cork Man Saw photo of Hitler in 1935 edition of Daily Mirror" and stretches the subject matter way beyond how far it can be stretched. And let's not forget the sequel Limerick Man Once Met Cork Man Who Saw photo of Hitler in 1935 Daily Mirror. The half- decent documentary I'm referring to is one of the half dozen or so I've heard in the last decade that demonstrated even competent journalism. It was about fellahs from the Irish Republic serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment. Contrary to what the Australian Broadcasting Corporation declared when it rebroadcast the programme, the regiment is not exclusively recruited in the Irish Republic, far from it. But since 1922 when the Free State was created, everyone from the island has been able to serve in the British armed forces. Lads from Northern Ireland have been equally welcome to serve in the Irish Defence Force. I remember meeting a crowd of them on home leave in Northern Ireland. They held the IRA in complete contempt. But then the IRA was the main threat to their lives in the early 1980s. Every security van in The Republic needed a army escort and a carload of detectives as escort to foil the IRA's fundraising hold- ups.

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I recently came across an American book for people who collect old military vehicles, as in tanks. The 1994 book gave details about how to refurbish and maintain your tank. It turned out that about the cheapest tanks to buy at the time were British Centurions and Chieftains. Both were being sold off in some numbers by the Ministry of Defence  around 1994 for $10,000 a piece. But the book advised going for the older Centurions, originally designed during the Second World, as the Chieftains  were a little more complex and difficult for the enthusiast to maintain. I seem to remember when I was younger a lot of ex-Polish Army T-34s were being imported into the UK by collectors. I believe the customs forms described them as "agricultural vehicles", as in heavy duty tractors. 

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